There are over 200 different species of squirrels in the United States. The squirrel family includes ground squirrels, tree squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, prairie dogs, and even flying squirrels. Squirrels are dangerous to humans because they have been known to carry diseases like rabies. Ticks from ground squirrels can also spread Lyme disease to pets and humans. Squirrels are known to take up residence in your attic, potentially damaging the items in your attic and your home’s insulation.
What does a Squirrel look like?
Tree squirrels generally grow between 1 and 2 feet in length and have long, bushy tails that provide them with the balance necessary to climb and leap among treetops. Their coats can be black, gray, brown, or rusty red. Ground squirrels are usually red to smoky gray in color and may display patterns of stripes or spots. Their tails are much shorter and thinner than those of tree squirrels. Flying squirrels are distinctively gray with lighter underbellies and dark black stripes along their sides.
What does a Squirrel eat?
Both tree squirrels and flying squirrels eat nuts, seeds, grasses, roots, and other plant materials. As omnivores, they will not hesitate to take advantage of easily accessible food sources such as bird feeders and garbage. Flying squirrels are carnivorous and eat insects, birds, and eggs.
Tree squirrels and flying squirrels thrive in wooded areas with mature hardwood trees and ample groundcover. They construct nests out of twigs and leaves high up in tree branches or in hollowed tree cavities. Ground squirrels prefer to live in fields or open grassy areas, such as meadows or pastures, where they dig burrows and tunnel systems for themselves.
Frequently Asked Questions
The most common varieties of squirrels in the U.S. are:
- Gray squirrels – The largest of the common squirrel species, gray squirrels reach about 20 inches long. They are the most widely distributed type nationally.
- Fox squirrels – Often found in spacious states like Texas and Colorado, these animals prefer open, sunlit ground with plenty of room for foraging and nesting.
- Black squirrels – This squirrel species is the result of gray and fox squirrels mating. Their dark fur retains more heat, helping them nest in colder areas.
- Flying squirrels – These secretive animals rarely come into contact with humans. They are smaller than most other types of squirrels, measuring only about 12 inches long, and have a special skin membrane that helps them glide from tree to tree.
Finding droppings under bird feeders or on attic floors could be a good indicator that squirrels are present. However, telling their waste apart from that of other pests, such as rats or mice, can be difficult. To differentiate squirrel droppings from other pest feces, closely examine their size, shape, and color. Squirrels leave behind cylindrical, segmented waste pellets around half an inch in length. They are typically black, but can also be brown or even red in color.
Female squirrels usually give birth to two litters a year, each containing an average of two to three pups. Young are born without fur and aren’t ready to leave the nest for at least a month and a half. By the time two months pass, baby squirrels are typically weaned and on their own.
Typically, about half the squirrels in a population die each year. Predators like hawks, owls, coyotes, bobcats, and snakes eat squirrels. Parasites, diseases, and falls can kill squirrels. Human interactions like car collisions also threaten squirrels.
Eastern Gray Squirrel Life Expectancy
Red Squirrel Life Expectancy
The average red squirrel lives five years, though the pests have great difficulty surviving their first year. 9 years is the longest recorded wild red squirrel lifespan.
Ground Squirrel Life Expectancy
The average lifespan for the California ground squirrel is 3 to 4 years in the wild, but they can live as long as 6 years. In captivity, the recorded lifespan for the ground squirrel is 10 years.
Squirrels spend most of their lives in trees, but they do have to come down to look for food. As a result, property owners are sometimes able to gauge the presence of the pests by looking for their footprints. Squirrel tracks have four toes on the front feet and five toes on the rear feet, though size can vary widely. On the small side, front footprints are one and a quarter inches long by three-quarters of an inch wide and rear tracks are one and a quarter inches long by one inch wide. Front and rear tracks can top out at approximately two inches long and wide.
Squirrel tracks are most commonly confused with those of rabbits. The crucial difference is that squirrel tracks will run straight toward trees, where rabbits go around them. Also, squirrels are erratic in their travels, so large gaps can exist between tracks. Rabbits are much more consistent, with roughly 20 inches between each set of prints. All four squirrel tracks in dirt may appear nearly side-by-side due to the animals’ galloping gait, in which the hind feet land slightly in front of where the front feet were planted. A track might also show evidence of the tail dragging across it.
- Both pests must constantly gnaw on wood and other items to wear down their ever-growing teeth.
- Tree squirrels are known for their bushy tails, while rat tails are notoriously scaly.
- Their diets are quite similar, as both are omnivores.
Though the two pests have similar habits as well as habitats, telling them apart is crucial to successful removal from the home.